Thursday, September 29, 2011

"The Yellow Admiral" - a review..

“Once he had been made a post captain, promotion to admiral was automatic. This was done by seniority, but it didn't mean he would necessarily fly his flag at sea. Admirals could be appointed to an unspecified squadron, commonly known as ‘the yellow squadron’, if the Admiralty had no confidence in a captain’s ability to command a fleet.” (from

The novel opens with Jack Aubrey at home, ashore after the sea battle at the end of "The Commodore" but with his financial fortunes at something of a low ebb (he's been there before!)

Despite all the slavers he had taken as prizes in "The Commodore", he is being dragged through the courts by several of the owners who are disputing his claims.. things are so bad he may have to sell the house... he is also worried that despite his recent temporary promotion to Commodore (not a formal rank, but an appointment for a specific mission) he is destined to not make admiral but may end up being "yellowed" as the end of the war is clearly in sight...

In the meanwhile he immerses himself in local politics and campaigns against enclosing the local common, while Maturin - also penniless as a result of political problems in Spain - moves his entire family into Jack's house..

Things look up when he receives orders to return to his ship the "Bellona" currently in the squadron blockading Brest, only to find that the Admiral in charge stood to gain financially from the enclosure Jack has successfully fought.... Jack is punished by being sent to the inshore squadron (the harder assignment due to the conditions) but not before Maturin receives orders for a mission that involves a covert landing in France..

Maturin is successfully landed, but on the same night, under cover of fog and dark two French ships slip past Jack's ship unseen. He is further reprimanded by the admiral for missing them, and just when things can get no worse (finances and career in ruins) he gets a letter from Sophie telling him she has now found out about a previous adultery and wants a divorce...

Happily for Jack things then start to look up - he captures a hugely rich French privateer (which goes some way to restoring his financial fortunes) but in the subsequent storm "Bellona" is battered badly and returns to England for repairs where Sophie confirms she wants a divorce... by the time he gets back to the blockade he finds that Maturin has been recovered from France, but has gone straight to London to report on his mission.

Maturin delivers reports of a Spaniard acting as a spy (who is caught), but also of a Chilean plan for independence.Maturin presents a proposal for an expedition to help Chilean independence with Jack in command, the proposal receives approval. Maturin's fortune is returned to him - he is rich again...

In the meanwhile Sophie has been given a good talking to by Diana and Clarissa Oaks who suggest that she might also want to consider an affair to "even things up" (this bit made me laugh!), and she writes to Jack asking for forgiveness.

In the following months the "Bellona" remains on the Brest blockade, Maturin tells Jack of his plan for Chilean Independence and Jack agrees to lead the expedition. With the end of the war, "Bellona" returns to England.

With the peace, Stephen finances the fitting-out of the "Surprise" and they prepare for the expedition to Chile. Jack and Stephen set off with their families for Madeira, where after a short holiday they will part company; Jack and Maturin to Chile, and the family's back home - but as the novel ends, word reaches them of Bonaparte's escape from Elba and orders from Lord Keith (that's him to the left), commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, appointing Jack a commodore in command of all Royal Navy ships in the harbour of Madeira, with orders to blockade the Straits of Gibraltar.

Steve the Wargamer gives this a solid eight out of ten - yet another cracker despite the down beat nature of the first part of the book - the succession of blows, financial and emotional, are only offset by the conversations between Jack and Stephen which are brilliant... Next stop, the "100 Days"....! Free Happy Smileys


  1. I love the Aubrey & Maturin books! Frankly I don't care what anyone says - Patrick O'Brien had to have been there. After reading the books, I also find myself talking like a character from a Jane Austen novel.

    The passage where Diana and Clarissa gave Sophie the dressing-down made me hoot, especially where Diana tells her something to the effect that "It has to be said, I found Jack is no phoenix in matters sexual." Great books. =)

  2. I love the series too, but I've started "The Hundred Days" 3 times and never finished idea why.

    Best wishes


  3. I get so sad when I get to the last books in the series. Its obvious that O'Brian was tiring with age and had he had another decade, he could have finished the series in a grander manner.